Year in Review 2023: January, February and March
Published 1:41 pm Monday, December 25, 2023
Editor’s Note: Over the next several issues, we will publish our annual look back at some of the top stories, newsmakers and images that shaped the year. Following are several of the top stories published in the Bulletin in the first three months of 2023.
The Town of Tryon held a drop-in reception for the local citizenry to say thank you and goodbye to departing Town Manager Zach Ollis, who moved on to a similar position in Cramerton, N.C.
Folks from all over Polk County and Tryon enjoyed refreshments while sharing their appreciation for the work Ollis had done since taking the job in August of 2016.
Over 70 acres of wilderness that were set to be developed and be home to a proposed police training center were instead added to Green River Game Lands near Saluda. After an outcry from the community and the conservation efforts of Saluda residents and Conserving Carolina, that land is now protected.
On January 13, deputies responded to the scene of a shooting and located the suspect’s vehicle in the Food Lion parking lot in Columbus. When police approached the vehicle, a passenger fled on foot, ran through Food Lion and out an emergency exit near the back of the store, breaking a glass door in the process.
Identified as Dylan Isaiah Thomas, the suspect escaped into a wooded area. Law enforcement extensively searched the area but was ultimately unable to locate him.
On January 27, the Town of Tryon paid tribute to Tryon Daily Bulletin journalist Leah Justice, who passed away on January 12. The town placed a Memorial Banner honoring Justice at the Tryon Rotary Clock Plaza in downtown Tryon.
Justice was well-loved and respected by the entire community, which she served for over 20 years as a journalist for the Tryon Daily Bulletin.
Veteran Polk County coach Alan Peoples was inducted into the North Carolina High School Track and Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame during a ceremony at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem.
Peoples joined the fourth class of Hall inductees to be recognized during the Mondo Elite High School Invitational. He is the third Hall member with Polk County ties, joining Polk County High standout Karen Godlock and Polk Central great Tony Waldrop as Hall members.
After a month-long investigation, three men werre arrested in connection to an electronic gambling establishment in Lynn. Gerald Edgar Moore of Tryon was charged with three counts of felony operation of more than five video gaming machines and operating/possessing slot machines. James Lewis Trew III of Four Oaks, N.C., and Jeffrey Raines of Charleston, S.C were also arrested on the same charges.
“When we receive complaints from the public regarding illegal activity, we take those seriously,” Sheriff Tim Wright said of the investigation. “These types of gambling operations have a history of attracting nuisances and other criminal elements, and target individuals with addiction issues.”
Groundhog Day in Columbus was celebrated with a prediction by the town’s wood spirit mascot, aptly named Cole Lumbus. Cole was joined by members of the Discover Columbus Committee, Mayor Pat McCool, Robert Williamson, Jimmi Buell, and Rosalie Rogers. He did not see a shadow, so an early spring was predicted.
Residents in our area spotted the massive white balloon suspected to be a Chinese spy balloon drifting across the sky. The balloon was later shot down by the U.S. military off the Carolina coast.
Many took to social media, sharing photos and comments about seeing the balloon in the skies above the Foothills.
The Town of Tryon’s Parks Committee announced that it will be making upgrades to Woodland Park with a focus on improving the park entrance at the rear of the IGA parking lot to make it more attractive.
The project involved clearing out brush, weeds and debris and then planting native trees, shrubs and perennials.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners accepted a donation of approximately 7 acres of land along Hwy. 108 where a new YMCA facility will be constructed. The property is located between the Milliken Plant and Fox Mountain Rd.
“Polk County is excited about the opportunity that this gift creates for all the citizens of Polk County,” said County Manager Marche Pittman.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners discussed the approval to purchase property in Mill Spring for government offices.
Polk County Attorney Jana Berg explained that the county entered into a contract to purchase the 6.74-acre tract of land and building for $791,859.
Door of Hope Ministry announced the construction of its headquarters, a variety of therapy centers and an assortment of accommodations on a 152-acre property on Pea Ridge Rd. in Mill Spring. It said the development would take place in seven phases over the next 15 years.
On February 27, Tryon Town Council voted to hire Jim Fatland as the new town manager.
Fatland previously served as Tryon’s town manager from 2002 to 2008. He most recently was the city manager for the City of Brevard, N.C., and has served in similar roles in Highlands, N.C., Monroe, N.C. and the Metro Sewer District of Buncombe County.
Green Creek Fire Rescue announced the completion of Station 3, its new fire substation located in Mill Spring. The excitement has been a long time coming for Green Creek Fire Rescue as they have been working for a very long time to make this station a reality.
The building measures 80’ x 80’ and sits on just under one acre.
On March 2, two Polk County men were sentenced for engaging in dog fighting and related criminal conduct. The two men were indicted in June 2022.
Laddie Dwayne McMillian, 47, of Tryon, was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison and Derrick Twitty, 48, of Columbus, was sentenced to six months. Both defendants were also sentenced to two years of supervision following their release and were prohibited from owning any dogs during the term of supervision.
On March 10, dozens of officials gathered for a groundbreaking photo-op in a grassy field adjacent to Thermal Belt Outreach in Columbus. The 2.6-acre site will be the new home for WNC Source Columbus Children’s Center, a $2.54 million, 7,500 sq. ft. childcare center that will serve up to 40 infants and toddlers.
A shooting occurred Friday, March 10, at a Polk County residence that claimed the life of Talia Petoia, 27 of Tryon. She was pronounced dead at Spartanburg Regional Hospital.
Petoia was a 2014 graduate of Polk County High School and graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2022. Her boyfriend, Tyler Laughter, was later charged with involuntary manslaughter.
A coalition of nonprofits with plans to develop a 31-mile stretch of rail line into the Saluda Grade Trail reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern to sell the portion of the railroad.
This coalition, consisting of Conserving Carolina, PAL (Play, Advocate, Live Well) and Upstate Forever, plans to repurpose the inactive rail line as a trail that will run through Tryon, Saluda and Landrum. The proposed trail will begin at Inman and end in Zirconia, N.C.
Members of the community donned their favorite green outfits and turned out in droves for the second annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in Tryon on March 17. A light rain fell throughout the event, but it didn’t dampen the holiday spirit of paradegoers. After the parade, the crowds enjoyed Celtic music performances and dancing.
Hundreds attended the inaugural Gardening For Life Project Celebration at Polk County High School, with best-selling author Dr. Doug Tallamy as the keynote speaker.
Featured at the event were more than 20 native plant vendors, educational exhibits,and organizations promoting healthy habitats.